So day 7 has arrived (day 11 if you count the first 4 days of brown rice and mung bean fast) and my body is telling me its time to break the fast. This morning I felt really tired, short of breath, light headed and very hungry.
Of course breaking a fast is not as decident as some people might expect. I must admit that thoughtlessly grabbing all the foods I have been looking forward to eating again over the last week is, although VERY appealing, not productive. Why? You may ask. Surely now more than ever, after being so good for a week, it is time to go nuts and eat everything you have ever dreamed of. Well sadly no, and for a few very good reasons.
- During a fast the digestive system has a much reduced load. This has some good affects as I have previously noted, but does mean that its ability to cope with complex digestive tasks is reduced. This means that food must be reintroduced slowly so as to not shock the system.
- One of the benefits of fasting is working out what food you should include in your diet from then on. If you rush back into too many foods at once then you may start eating something that doesn’t agree with you but miss it among all the “noise” of your, too soon, complex diet.
So what should you consider when deciding how to break your fast?
- The length and type of fast: A longer fast will, as logic would suggest, require a longer period on a reduced diet to break properly. I have come across several suggestions but the one I am going with comes from the book by Paul Pitchford “healing with whole foods”. This book suggests a time of around 1/4 the length of the fast. So in my case I consider that I did a 10 day fast and so will spend two and a half days breaking it.
- What type of fast: One very good way to break a fast is to slowly introduce the foods you would have eaten on a less cleansing fast. An air fast is considered the most cleansing (from the searching I have done, I have never done an air fast), then water, then juice (greater severity of juice choice logicaly being more cleansing but I don’t know this), then fruit, then raw food and grain fasting are probably the least cleansing and most building. So for instance to break a water fast you might introduce some juice, or a small amount of appropriate fruit, but to break a fruit fast you could introduce other raw foods or some simple cooked grains. Since my fast was a bit all over the place (for better or for worse) I have decided to break the fast with a lemon squeezed in water to get my liver going and about 50 grams of papaya.
- The load the food will have on your system: I mentioned above that you do not want to shock your system too much too fast. This means that you have to eat, regular small meals (the consensus seems to be every two hours), and food that will not overly tax your digestive system. Ideal foods for breaking a water/juice fast are raw fruits that are high in water content and natural enzymes that aid the body in their digestion. Many people break juice and water fasts with melons due to their ease of digestion. My decision to use papaya is based on it being very good for digestion, with the digestive enzyme papain being found in papaya in abundance (as the name suggests). Papaya is also relatively low in sugar, a plus while trying to reduce the shock to your system. I also chose to sprinkle the papaya with a small amount of cinnamon, utilising that wonderful spice’s ability to aid the body in avoiding GI spikes (info I got from a great book “Healing spices” by Dr Aggerwal.)
- How you eat: Obviously at the end of the fast we want to do the right thing by our body. Certainly if this is not true you might want to review your reasons for starting the fast in the first place. This means being patient and “present” when eating your first meals. Chew thoroughly, be grateful for the food you are eating. Consider the number of people in the world who do not have access to the wide range of food that you do. Maybe ponder briefly how much energy went into bringing the small amount of tropical fruit you are eating from where it is grown to your plate. The purpose of this is not to make you feel guilty but to increase your connection with the food. I firmly believe that the more you are conscious of the food you eat the more your digestive system will welcome and get the most benefit from it.
- How your body reacts to the food you reintroduce: This is a big one in my mind. You want to try and determine what a good diet is for you. No two people will have the same dietary needs and so a great way to work out yours, after looking at some common problems, is to observe what happens to YOU when you eat things. And there will never be a better time than when coming off a water or juice fast. So eat slowly and sit and meditate on the state of your body for a while after you have eaten . Do you feel energised and fresh or has the food you have just introduced made you feel lethargic and a bit nauseous. If it has, don’t panic, you might just have reintroduced that food too early, simply remove that food again briefly and try something else. Come back to the offending food again at a later point. If the same reaction occurs consider giving that food a miss for a longer period of time until your digestive system has recovered enough to cope, or you decided to eliminate that food for good. That is a judgment call that only you can make.
One very good website I have been using is “all about fasting“. This site has some helpful advice (certainly more detailed and based on more experience than I can offer) about types of fast, how to break a fast and much more.
So, in order to increase my blogging powers, below is a picture of my first meal taken in proper food blog (I put my camera so close to the food it got to eat some before I did) style 🙂